Who Would You Invite to Dinner?
This week I am honored that the Literary Book Blog Hop features a question I submitted.
When I was in my early teens or a bit younger I think, I read a book called Van Loon's Lives by Hendrick Willlem Van Loon. It was written in 1942 (Van Loon was a Newberry Winner for another work). I was maybe ten or so when I first read it and I was totally fascinated. The story line is that Von Loon and his good friend found a magic way to invite three famous literary figures from different eras for a Sunday Dinner. The book gives mini bios of the guests, explains the food the would have wanted and shows their dinner conversations. If you could invite any three literary figures from different eras to a Sunday Dinner who would they be? Magic takes care of the language
Van Loon's Lives is really a wonderful book and I think it helped start me on a life time reading adventure. There is a really a lot to the book. The narrator and his friend spend a lot of time researching topics of conversation, food etc. Sometimes everything goes great and sometimes everything goes very wrong. They even have unexpected guests such as the man who invented fire show up. It is out of print but you can buy it online for under ten dollars. Some of their guests are not purely literary figures such as Mozart and Napoleon. At the time I read I had not even heard of most of the characters in the book but I was amazed the spectrum of guests. This is also a book that I think most bookish adults will like also.
Here are my three dinner guests.
1. Samuel Johnson-from the UK in the late 18th century. A great hero of the reading life and a lover of good conversation (OK and maybe a bit in love with holding forth!). He was a truly wise man.
2. Victor Hugo-France 19th century-we might as well match one giant ego with another-I am currently reading his Les Miserables and like all first time readers I am in sheer awe of the work.
3. Elizabeth Bowen-from Ireland -I would invite Ms Bowen just because I love her short stories so much and admire her as a person. I think she is the one person who could keep this dinner party from turning into a battle of the unending monologues! She was also a very experienced dinner party host.
What to serve?-Well it would be good hearty English and French food.
Starting the conversation-Maybe we could invite Ms Bowen to update our other two guests on how the literary world sees them now and give them a quick run down on the history of the world since they passed away. That should be enough to get the conversation going. I predict both men would be utterly charmed by Ms Bowen and Johnson would say he was glad to have met a great literary genius, even if he was French. Hugo would in turn say that Johnson was a wiser man than Voltaire. As they parted, Ms Bowen invited everyone back to her castle in Ireland for a two week holiday and tell Johnson that of course he could bring James Boswell to record it all. Hugo will invite Johnson for a tour of the streets of post Napoleonic Paris (of course he will first have to explain to Johnson who Napoleon is and tell him about the bloody wars between their countries) including the sewers of Paris. Johnson invites Hugo to join his weekly club meeting at the Old Chedder Cheese Pub.